I currently work as a part-time supervisor in a primary school, and am studying for a health and social care degree with the Open University. I applied to volunteer with Volunteers Supporting Families in Greenwich to gain more experience of working with people in crisis.
I am now working with my first family: a single mother and her 17-year-old son. Both have learning and health difficulties, so I had to approach the support in a way that could be easily understood by both. I have to admit that at first I found the role challenging; going into a very new environment, building a relationship with the family and trying to understand their issues and work out how I could help.
I was, however, welcomed warmly by the family. I have always been very clear with them that I am not there to do things for them, but to empower them to take responsibility. I try to divide my time the best I can between mother and son, but sometimes, as is the case with many 17-year-olds, the son can be hard to talk to!
I try to be diplomatic and use language that is easy for them to understand – not social worker talk. I do sometimes challenge their ideas, and encourage them to try to understand and discuss the decisions being made by their social worker.
So far we have made good strides in sorting out their paperwork, setting up systems and creating a chores timetable. I even got the son to sign a ‘bed time’ agreement – not to go to bed too late, or stay up on his phone all night. The son has also joined a local youth group, and both mother and son have enrolled on a cookery course with my guidance.
It can sometimes feel like little has changed but, standing back, I can recognise that all the small steps they make are taking them in a better and more positive direction.
I feel I have gained confidence and knowledge through volunteering. I have even liaised with the social worker to assist in report preparation. Through working closely with the families, volunteers can gain useful insights that can be very helpful for the social worker.
Once I graduate, my goal is to work as a family support worker. Volunteering with Volunteers Supporting Families has equipped me with essential experience and great training opportunities.